Commentary

Advice to Renteria: Rent, don't buy

Expect manager's post to be fleeting on Cubs team short on talent, wins, interest

Updated: November 7, 2013, 2:18 PM ET
By Jon Greenberg | ESPNChicago.com

CHICAGO -- The Chicago Cubs are expected to name Rick Renteria as the 53rd ex-manager in team history Thursday.

Congrats, Rick. We hardly knew ye.

What, you think this guy is going to be dumping Old Style, I mean delicious Budweiser, over Theo Epstein's head when they win the World Series?

If you're a Cubs fan, I'll give you a pass. You guys will believe anything.

I've had little interest in this managerial search, because a baseball manager doesn't matter much if he doesn't have good players. I don't see the Cubs spending big bucks to create a team that can win in 2014. And you would hope they're not going to rush the minor league studs who carry the weight of the franchise on their still-developing shoulders.

[+] EnlargeRick Renteria
Andy Hayt/San Diego Padres/Getty ImagesRick Renteria, who has no major league managing experience, will take over the reins for the Chicago Cubs, according to a source.

Renteria is another placeholder, another future firing candidate. But, hey, good for him. There are only 30 of these jobs, and it's not every day you get a chance to manage the most profitable mid-market team in baseball.

Considering the track record of former Cubs managers, this is probably Renteria's only shot. Make it count, Rick. And you might want to rent, not buy.

The Cubs will ask Renteria, the 51-year-old erstwhile bench coach of the San Diego Padres, to mold their talented young players when they come up and find ways to inspire the veterans, all while managing a rumored major league team. Maybe he can solve the rooftops impasse, as well.

Winning, sadly enough, still isn't an immediate goal at Clark and Addison. Ownership is more concerned about boutique hotels and "see-through" outfield signs. The baseball front office is working diligently on building a powerhouse farm system.

Managing with no concern about the daily grind of wins and losses doesn't sound so bad. Renteria can ask Dale Sveum how that all worked out.

Two years ago, the Cubs welcomed Sveum with plenty of reverence about his track record developing young talent. Then they fired him after this season, all but pinning the failures of Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo on his watch.

Helpful hint: It's tough to have a winning atmosphere in a clubhouse where most of the players know they don't matter in the grand scheme and the ones that do can't hack it every day in the majors. And it's tough to manage a team in perennial disarray.

Epstein knows this. I'm sure Sveum deserved to get fired, but this job isn't easy. It's not glamorous and the only thing guaranteed is your contract.

But that's fine. Renteria is one of those old-fashioned "good baseball men" -- that amorphous term that covers pretty much every coach who has ever donned a uniform in the big leagues. Except for Terry Bevington, I guess.

I don't know Renteria, but in his official head shot for the Padres, he seems very happy. A lot of managers are happy before they come to the Cubs. Dusty Baker used to have a nice smile, too.

Still, Renteria has to be eager to take on baseball's greatest challenge. What competitor wouldn't want to try to do what a legend like Mike Quade couldn't?

In reality, Renteria inherits a bogus major league operation, light on talent and heavy on bad feelings. The Cubs have lost 197 games in the past two seasons, which, believe it or not, is a team record.

Maybe that will change in 2015 or 2016, the current target date for us to start caring about this team again.

The Cubs have done a bang-up job acquiring minor league talent, and those future lineups are tantalizing. Of course it's ridiculous to strategize about a team that doesn't exist yet. I believe Epstein referred to it as an "unrealistic panacea."

This two-year plummet was mostly by fiat of an ownership group that is wisely choosing to renovate the organization and the ballpark. Both needed major work, and the sausage-making process of it all has been painful to watch.

The result has been a miasma that smells worse than the bleachers after a day game. Attendance is down and interest is nil. There is no reason to believe that will change next season.

Good thing Renteria has experience dealing with defeat.

Drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the first round of the 1980 draft, Renteria played in the majors for parts of five seasons and has been a coach with the Padres for six more seasons.

In that time, he was on only one winning team, the 90-72 Padres in 2010.

During his playing career, in games that he actually participated in, Renteria's teams went 72-112. He played for some truly awful teams, including the expansion Florida Marlins. Not that the current Cubs need any mentoring. They know how to lose.

The Padres were 451-521 in his coaching tenure there. That's a .463 winning percentage. That would be a major step up for the Cubs.

The only problem here is that Renteria's losing has been in small markets. Losing in Chicago is a different animal. (That animal is a Cub.)

Of course, Sveum wasn't fired because the Cubs lost. The Cubs were built to lose and gain better draft picks and international spending dollars. It was part of the plan. After he fired Sveum, Epstein reminded everyone that the team is in a different situation now. He hinted they're almost ready to win.

Call me when they're ready.

I hope Renteria is prepared to answer questions about the timetables of prospects Javier Baez, Kris Bryant and Albert Almora every day. And I hope he's ready to manage them like real ballplayers when they come up. Because if and when they struggle, you know who's getting the blame.

Every manager is hired to be fired, but none more so than a Cubs manager.

Jon Greenberg

Columnist, ESPNChicago.com
Jon Greenberg is a columnist for ESPNChicago.com. He has lived and worked in Chicago since 2003, and is a graduate of Ohio University and the University of Chicago.

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